DOJ publicizes its case against Apple on first day of ‘ebook pricing fix’ trial

(via AP)

(via AP)

The U.S. Department of Justice has released its case against Apple in the alleged ‘ebooks pricing fix’ case (via CNET) that claims Apple made deals with book publishers to manipulate the price of ebooks.

The Justice Department believes Apple moved to raise ebook prices before Apple launched the iPad and the iBookstore so the company could benefit at the cost of the consumer.

Notably, everyone mentioned in the complaint has settled out of court ahead of this week’s trial, but Tim Cook has remained adamant that Apple is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Apple’s iBookstore has established deals with all of the major book publishers and sells ebooks on its proprietary store for viewing on Apple’s iOS devices including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

As we noted this morning, Tim Cook echoed this message at last week’s D11 conference:

The e-book case to me is bizarre. We’ve done nothing wrong there, and so we’re taking a very principled position. … We’re not going to sign something that says we did something we didn’t do. … So we’re going to fight.

The Justice Department released all 81 slides outlining its case against Apple, which you can view in its entirety below. Read more

Apple’s to DOJ: Publishers already decided to fix prices before iBookstore came along

Image (1) iBookstore1.jpg for post 30622

In the ongoing e-book price fixing case with the Department of Justice, in which Apple is accused of conspiring with publishers to fix eBook pricing and cut out Amazon, Apple has again responded to the DOJ’s claims detailing the “tough negotiations” it went through with publishers. To further prove its point that it was not colluding with publishers to fix e-book pricing, Apple said it “one-on-one” and “contentious negotiations” at a time when publishers were already considering methods of getting Amazon to increase pricing: Read more

Apple calls DOJ settlement with publishers unlawful, says trial is necessary

The U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement in April with three of the publishers involved in the eBook price-fixing antitrust suit against Apple. Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster were part of the settlement, which would allow Amazon to return to its previous wholesale model and the publishers to set and reduce prices for eBook titles freely. PaidContent provided an update today on the case by reporting Apple has filed a document with the Southern District of New York. It called the proposed settlements with the three publishers “fundamentally unfair, unlawful, and unprecedented.” Apple argued that since it is not settling, the settlement would unlawfully end contracts those publishers have with Apple.

The proposed settlement would require the three settling publishers — HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster — to terminate their existing agency pricing contracts with Apple. Apple says that isn’t fair: “The Government is seeking to impose a remedy on Apple before there has been any finding of an antitrust violation.” This case, the company states, revolves around “an alleged conspiracy to force Amazon to adopt agency.” So a settlement “enjoining collusion or precluding publishers from forcing agency on Amazon would be appropriate,” but Apple is entitled to defend its contracts in court.

Apple is hoping the courts decide to reject the settlements or delay a ruling until after the June 2013 trial. Apple also discussed Amazon’ role in the case. It claimed the government has “unwittingly placed a thumb on the scales in favor of Amazon”:
Read more

Cue on agency model: ‘I don’t think you understand. We can’t treat newspapers or magazines any differently than we treat FarmVille.”

By now you probably know that the U.S. Department of Justice launched an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and two publishers this month following an investigation into Apple’s eBook pricing agency model. Three publishers, including Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, decided to reach a settlement with the Department of Justice to return to Amazon’s set-your-own price wholesale model. Meanwhile, Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin will take the fight to court.

Interestingly, a report from The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by the HarperCollins’ parent company News Corp, suggested Apple was only ever trying to continue its App Store business model. The Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz described visiting Senior Apple Executive Eddy Cue to discuss changing Apple’s policies for publications. He quoted Cue as comparing book pricing to apps and not wanting to treat publications differently than app developers:
Read more

Analysts: Apple has a strong case in DOJ’s lawsuit over eBook price-fixing

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Apple and five other publishers over eBook price-fixing. The Department of Justice reached a settlement with three of the publishers in the suit, but Apple, MacMillan, and Penguin are standing strong (the U.S. is also after Simon and Shuster). Yesterday, MacMillan’s CEO released a letter on the matter and explained why the publisher chose not to settle. In the note, he said the Department of Justice’s settlement demands “could have allowed Amazon to recover the monopoly position it had built before our switch to the agency model.” He also said it is “hard to settle a lawsuit when you know you have done no wrong” and called the agency model the future of an “open and competitive market.”

As CNET noted, the Department of Justice may have a more difficult case against Apple. For one, Apple does not have a strong-hold in the eBook market, because Amazon has the commanding lead with its Kindle sales. The Department of Justice has a case against the publishers rather—and that is most likely why three of them have already chosen to settle. Apple only holds open the store, while publishers are the ones who choose the prices to set.

The settlement reached with three of the publishers yesterday is said to give them “freedom to reduce the prices of their e-book titles,” which allows Amazon to go back to its previous wholesale model.

A key point that the Department of Justice is using in its lawsuit is when all five of the publishers met together at a hotel in London to talk over eBook prices. Apple was not present at the meeting, so this may give the Department of Justice a harder time to press the Cupertino-based Company. Of course, the Department of Justice could still come out victorious, but it may have to dig a little deeper against Apple than it did with publishers. We are sure there will be more out of this case as time goes on.

Read more

US government sues Apple in eBook price-fixing antitrust suit

Bloomberg is reporting that the United States has filed an antitrust lawsuit in a New York district court against Apple and publishers Hachette SA, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster over alleged eBook price-fixing. The news follows reports from Reuters yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice was preparing to launch a lawsuit against Apple and five major publishers accused of colluding to fix and increase the price of eBooks.

According to the report, all the parties named in the suit—except Macmillan, Penguin, and Apple— are willing to settle to avoid legal costs. The Department of Justice could announce “unspecified” settlements as early as today.

At the core of the settlement discussions is the agency model introduced with the iPad in 2010. The deal with publishers was described by Steve Jobs to biographer Walter Isaacson:

“We told the publishers, ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway…. They went to Amazon and said, ‘You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books.’ “

The model allows publishers to set their own prices as long as Apple gets a 30 percent cut and a guarantee that the same content is not offered lower elsewhere, but the Department of Justice is trying to return to Amazon’s wholesale model by giving retailers like Amazon control over pricing. Bloomberg explained: Read more